Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki


saving-montgomery-soleSaving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

I really enjoyed Ms Tamaki’s This One Summer, and Saving Montgomery Sole has something of the spiky observation of that graphic novel, but doesn’t quite reach its heights.

Montgomery Sole is an odd duck in an decidedly homogenous Southern California town. She believes in mystical powers and, along with gay best friend Thomas and hippy Naoki, she has formed her school’s Mystery Club. Monty spends a lot of time on the Internet delving into such mysteries as spontaneous combustion and remote viewing, and that’s how she comes to acquire the Eye of Know for only $5.99. She comes to believe that the Eye gives her the power to hurt people who are threatening her, and she’s not sure how she feels about that.

Into this mix comes the Reverend White, a hardline Christian who believes in the sanctity of marriage. This is a threat to Monty as she has two Moms. When the Rev White’s son Kenneth turns up at school, Monty believes she has to act.

I didn’t find the whole business with the Eye to be particularly credible, whether it has powers or not, and while it does point to a teen’s urge to find something outside themselves to believe in, it just seemed a bit silly.

More satisfying is the White plotline, in which Monty feels she has to singlehandedly take on the reactionary newcomer after a crucifix appears on her, and others’, lockers. Her perception of her town’s conformity to socially conservative values is an assumption that she never considers will be challenged, and by tarring the son with the same brush as his father, she shows herself to be as blinkered as some of her classmates.

I liked the other two members of the Mystery Club: Thomas’s stoic attitude to the endless knee jerk homophobia of his classmates provides a sharp contrast to Monty’s bull in a china shop approach, and Naoki’s gentle quirkiness provides yet another contrast. Monty’s family feels robustly real as well – her two Moms and her sister, Tesla, form a tight loving around Monty as she thrashes around, and the Moms’ backstory gives authenticity to Monty’s panic.

This has had some pretty good reviews, but I didn’t find it a particularly satisfying read. Though pitched as a YA novel, it reads much more like a middle grade one; and while Monty is 16, she feels much more like a girl on the brink of adolescence than one heading into adulthood. I bought it for my high school library, but I suspect it will work much better for sophisticated middle graders.

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